After months upon months of grey and brown tones, I’m happy to see the colors start coming to life. Spring brings sweet smells of hyacinths and pansy.
Each year I either force some hyacinth (this requires a little planning) or buy some in late Winter so I can enjoy them when I really need it (like when the snow keeps falling and I find tears streaming down my face). After they’ve bloomed, I plant the bulbs in my garden for years of enjoyment.
I also start seeds on the radiator and then they live in the closet under lights for about 6 weeks or more. I’ve just started introducing them to outdoors for a few hours each day to get them ready for transplanting. Can’t wait.
Early tulips, grape hyacinths, and these little Einstein daffodils (always gotta have a smart guy in the garden) are up now, the beginning of my spring garden. More to come!
Whether you say crocuses or croci, they’re looking lovely in Chicagoland. They’re just plain cheerful. The beginning of our gardens! Today, I spent about five hours adding compost, outlining a new bed or two, and trying my hand at growing poppies again. I’ve not had any luck with poppy seeds. Fingers crossed this year. I also got my first lettuce seed in.
A good early spring checklist:
- If you haven’t already, trim back perennials that were left for winter interest. Don’t prune any spring flowering trees or shrubs. You may be cutting off the bloom buds.
- Stir up the compost bin and add to your beds and containers.
- Add extra potting soil to containers that need it.
- Mulch around trees.
- If you’ve got common orange day lilies coming out of your ears like I do, it’s easy to dig and thin them out now while they are still small.
- Divide perennials like ornamental grasses. For complete list, check out UM Extension site.
- Plant seeds that need/like the cold. The back of your seed packet will tell you when is the best time to plant. Right now, anything with 4 weeks or longer before last frost date can be planted here in Chicago. (I planted lettuce, poppies, gaillardia, and california pansy.)
- Inside, starts of tomatoes, basil, peppers should be underway.
Oh, how I wish this were happening outside.
That’s what is happening in my house… still cold, grey, and hibernating…
Well, it’s not the Spring we had last year, with temperatures nice and mild. But there is not a doubt in my mind that we will have more light and the warmer temperatures will come. I have a little yellow crocus up front just waiting for a good day of above freezing to pop open.
This winter has really been rough for me. So I’m looking at the bright side and highly anticipating the burst of growth that’s bound to happen. Like the day when the green buds on the trees provide the first “color” you’ve seen since fall? I love it. In the meantime, I’ve started my tomatoes, peppers, as well as some zinnias and daisies in the closet. They’re just babies, but growing well.
buy yourself some flowers!
This winter is so long and drawn out this year. Getting 6 inches of snow on Tuesday didn’t help. Luckily it is time for the Chicago flower and garden show! You’ve got until March 17th to go… go… go, you’ll be a happier individual for it. The streams, ponds, and beds of tulips were magical. One water feature used dry ice to create the appearance of fog or a morning haze.
Some interesting ideas for window boxes this year too. The best two, in my opinion, were the lavender-ranunculus one and the edible one.
edible box with chard, fennel, pansy, nasturtium
I was excited to see a nice vertical box as well as these twig spheres. New projects to do this year for sure.
Everything smelled fresh and wonderful. They had some centerpieces on exhibit as well as beautifully designed walking paths. Really helps getting through these last moments of winter.
even a gnome cake to make you smile
Chicago was 60 degrees yesterday, Jan 29th of the year 2013. Wow! I road my bike without a jacket. Very strange indeed. I had put out some extra sunflower seed for the wildlife and spent a good amount of time watching this squirrel “plant” a bed. We’ll see this summer if his efforts produce a lovely field of sunflowers.
image from Gardens Eye View
Nothing can make the winter seem longer than sitting in my house, sick, achy, constantly blowing my nose, and slipping in and out of consciousness. Lucky for me, the Select seed catalog arrived. It’s perfect for looking at a few moments and laying aside. Perhaps that’s why I’ve got visions of meadows in my head for next spring. I’ve received so many little packets of wildflower seed from weddings and other events, but never used them. Perhaps this is the year to be wild in spots. Visual inspiration can be seen over at Gardens Eye View.
I have a little black spot problem with this rose. I’m hoping that the straw will help by inhibiting spores to get airborne?
Well winter really hasn’t hit Chicago much yet this year. In fact, a few lilacs were budding and thinking it Spring. EEEK! The kale, sage, thyme, and some snapdragons are going strong. That, I don’t mind. The fresh sage and thyme were great to have for the Thanksgiving feast! I did get some garlic in early November and hope to see their little faces come Spring.
Garlic patch with some chard and strawberries.
Potato harvest this year was a little surprising. Since winter 2011/2012 was so mild, a few stragglers from the previous garden year gave me a nice little crop! I do hope that this year the snow falls and the ground water is replenished. Right now, the Earth is going through some cycle. Whether you believe it to be global warming or just a cycle of the Earth, it’s definitely causing surprises in our generation. With the Mississippi getting so low that there’s a threat of having to shut down freight traffic from St. Louis to Ciaro, Ill., the rise of large storms making their ways to waters that are warming up the East Coast, the fires in the West and Southwest, and the ice melting away from Greenland; we all need to make wise choices….bike/walk/mass transit/recycle/support local sustainable industries/try your hand at using solar and wind… It’s worth it.
Remember to leave some winter interest for birdie friends to nibble on…and in hopes of some snow!
I love having flowers. If I can’t find anything from the garden, I often buy a bouquet. It seems to always be the case that one bunch of the entire bunch keeps fresher longer. This time these little daisies reigned champion, so i cut and placed them in varying sizes of jars, rejuvenating the bouquet!
I’m always looking for something new to do with eggplants, it’s hard to not just make eggplant parmesan or baba ganoush all the time. This weekend we tried our hand at an eggplant bolognese recipe from Whole Foods. It needs a day to sit for the spices and flavor to reach it’s peak, but the tenderness of the eggplant was just amazing.
2 teasp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1 cup red wine
small onion, diced
2 med/large carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 med eggplant, chopped
12 oz mushrooms, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 28oz can diced tomato or 3-4 large tomatoes from your garden, diced
2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tbsp pepper
- Bring wine to simmer over med heat.
- Add garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Stir frequently.
- Simmer until almost all the wine is evaporated and the onion is translucent, about 10 min.
- Add eggplant, mushrooms, and rosemary. Cook over med heat another 10 min.
- Stir in paste.
- Add diced tomatoes, broth, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer on med/low for 20 min, stirring frequently.
- this is a good time to start your pasta
- Remove from heat and add almond milk, basil, and salt (to taste).
- Serve over your pasta (for non-vegans, add Parmesan cheese).
This recipe could also be made with gluten-free pasta or forgo the pasta and serve over squash.
As the days run a constant 70 and the nights hit the 50s, the reality of Autumn sets in. Luckily, there are still a few surprises in my garden and welcome blooms. Enjoy!
clematis on a second bloom
snap dragon with bee friend
such a variety of snap dragons this year
cleome going strong
first dahlia about to open!
surprise verbena, sprouted from last year’s seed